Repentance is often a misunderstood concept. So many people equate repentance to some moment in humble contrition where you kneel down, cry your eyes out and then get up a changed person. Now, don't get me wrong, God can and does deal with man in this way on occasion, but most of the time repentance is just a changing of our choices. In other words, we realize we are doing the wrong thing, so we confess our failure to follow the right path, turning toward a lifestyle of making the right choices in the area where we had the conflict.
In those days there appeared John the Baptist, preaching in the Wilderness (Desert) of Judea, and saying, Repent (think differently; change your mind, regretting your sins and changing your conduct), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:1-2 AMP)
Something I don't think we consider is the "lifestyle" of repentance - it is more than a moment in time - it is a continual process of choosing to make right choices in place of the wrong ones we had been making. The main thing about living a lifestyle of repentance is the opportunities repentance brings into our lives. John said, "Repent - for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He said this as Jesus stood nearby, awaiting his turn at being baptized by John. Here is something we often don't consider when we think of repentance - the kingdom of heaven being at hand as we make those changes in our choices. In reality, John was reminding us of the presence of God with us as we make these life-altering changes. The kingdom of heaven was not a place - it was a person - Christ. So, when he tells us to repent (think differently, have a change of mind, come to a place of real regret for our sins which leads to a change in our actions), he is telling us we don't have to go it alone!
Repentance gets us out of the place of doing "what we know" and moves into a new plane of things we may not be as "sure" about. We make a change in our "altitude" through a change in our "attitude". In other words, repentance is a doorway to opportunity - the opportunity to make different choices. This may come as a surprise to some, but conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, while repentance is our business! We take the steps toward right behavior through making better choices. Sure, we have the Lord standing right beside us as we do, but we are the one taking the steps! Teachable people realize the value of repentance - the value of new opportunities. Without these new opportunities, we'd live as we always have. Most of us would live in regret the rest of our lives if we didn't seize the new opportunities that come by the "kingdom of heaven" being "at hand"!
In another passage, Jesus is being surrounded by little children. The disciples are concerned the little ones are keeping Jesus from the "important" ministry he is supposed to be performing. Jesus chides the disciples for attempting to "shoo" the children away. In fact, he tells them the little children are an illustration of how it is we are suppose to approach and fellowship with God. He is not giving us license to be "childish", just "child-like". Childish kids (and adults) are really quite self-centered and selfish. Christ was more concerned with the simplicity of heart a child has - the willingness to try new things even when you don't understand all the ins and outs of the matter. Tell a child they can fly and they will actually try! They simply believe - and set out to make it so. Maybe there is something to this idea as it comes to repentance. We perhaps need to learn to simply believe we can make the right choices and see a change in the results produced in our lives! Then we just need to make them!
I don't know about you, but recognizing repentance is really just making an honest assessment of the situation, then choosing to make better choices as we move forward seems a little impossible at times. We struggle with the "monumental" task of making those better choices, don't we? Truth be told, we all do! The good news is the closeness of Christ as we walk into those moments of realizing the choices we have been making are not the best AND his nearness as we draw next to him to walk our way out of them! Truly, the kingdom of heaven IS at hand - ours! We just need to reach out, take hold and then walk away from what has been our stumbling spot for so long. It is important to remember no new opportunity will seem entirely easy at first. In fact, it may be a little scary to begin with. In time, and in trust, the newness of the opportunity at hand as we repent is going to become the new "normal" for our lives! Just you wait and see! Just sayin!